Do You Like a Challenge?
Many of us are up for new challenges. We like to challenge ourselves and each other by testing our physical and mental abilities. Let’s run a marathon. Or climb a mountain! Let’s do the crossword in the newspaper! Let’s find a new job.
So many challenging options. Of course, we love having options. But out of all the challenging options we could pursue – Jesus is surely near the top.
It isn’t only his teachings, which we’ll look at below. It’s the social status of becoming a Christian – of accepting and trusting in the God of miracles – the God who says we’re all rebels who need Him for eternal life. The God who says there is life after death! Such claims come with the challenging social awkwardness that makes you a minority that is often mocked or dismissed, or at the very least politely tolerated.
But if you’re up for a challenge – why not consider Jesus and his teachings? It might stretch you and it might make you feel uncomfortable. But don’t dismiss him until you’ve really investigated his identity, teaching, death and what Christians call his ‘Return’.
Jesus’ identity challenges us in at least two ways. He and his earliest followers, and many billions of Christians afterwards, have stated he is both ‘Lord and Saviour’.
Perhaps we like the idea of a saviour – although that has challenging implications in itself – but most of us really don’t like the idea of Jesus as Lord. Why is that?
Because we don’t like the idea that we are accountable to anyone – let alone someone we don’t know.
We live in an age where the line from the 19th century poem Invictus has become the rule of thumb: ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’. You only have to switch on the TV and watch the numerous adverts that have lines like ‘my rules’ or ‘my life’, to see this is true.
But Jesus challenges us on this by saying, you’re not the ultimate master of your life, Jesus is.
Jesus is Lord.
It’s a title Jesus uses for himself as well as his earliest disciples. How does that statement make you feel?
The inner rebel doesn’t like the idea because that means we are accountable to someone higher than us. Ultimately, the title is a reference to Jesus as God himself, come in the flesh.
It doesn’t get more challenging than having to make a decision about the Lord of the Universe!
But Jesus’ identity as Saviour is also a challenge to you and me – because it implies we need saving from something. Our pride often rankles at this but, as we’ll see, this gets to the very heart of Jesus’ mission. His whole life and death is one big challenge to our perception of who we are and how good we think we are.
This becomes apparent when we see some of Jesus’ teachings. We noticed in an earlier article, that his teaching on love is attractive. But that doesn’t provide the full picture. He makes it very clear we are broken, sinful – even evil – people who have turned away from God and follow our own rules.
Way before the #MeToo movement Jesus was warning of not objectifying women with our eyes. He says that we can commit adultery with our eyes when we look lustfully at someone. He says it would be better to pluck out our eye than go to hell.
This isn’t meant to be taken literally. We shouldn’t go around mutilating ourselves – but he’s making a graphic point. Our actions have consequences and are not good. In fact, he says only God himself is truly good.
His teaching is challenging and too often ignored because we don’t like the implications. But are we willing to be challenged in this area? How good are we really? Are we willing to admit we might not be as good as we would even like, let alone what Jesus requires?
This is why Jesus died. He died because we’re rebels who need saving and we deserve God’s punishment and can’t save ourselves. The good news of Christianity is that Jesus took our place as our substitute. He died on the cross for us.
That last line is why Jesus’ death is challenging, because it requires us to admit we need saving from ourselves. That we’re not as good as we think and need Jesus to save us.
It is ironic in a world where superheroes saving the world is such a popular story, that we so easily reject the reality behind the fiction. We all need saving. And we all need a Saviour. Jesus’ death made that possible for you and me.
The real challenge of Christianity is that it offers eternal life to those who turn to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour – but to those who don’t, Jesus will return as their judge.
We like the idea of justice, don’t we, until we’re accused of doing wrong. But Jesus’ return will mean it is too late to decide. You will have already made your choice.
This is the biggest challenge of all – will you go on living your life without God, or will you turn to Jesus? If you choose no, you will experience eternity without God and his goodness forever. Every good thing about this world will be stripped away and you’ll serve your life sentence as a rebel against the king.
Jesus’ return is challenging because it guarantees eternal consequences: heaven or hell. Life or death. Freedom or prison. Jesus or self.
The Challenge of Jesus
Jesus is the most challenging and most divisive figure in history because he doesn’t allow you to sit on the fence. He doesn’t allow the comfort of apathy or indecision. He challenges our very heart, our very perception of self, and requires us to consider him seriously, so that we answer the question:
Are you for him, or are you against him?
If you’ve been challenged by this article – please get in touch. We’d love to chat some more with you and are happy to answer any questions fired our way.
 See a selection of examples: Matthew 12:8; John 20:28; Acts 2:36.
 See for example Mark 2:17; Luke 11:13.
 Matthew 5:27-28.
 Mark 9:47.
 Mark 10:18.